The Best Phone Screen Interview Questions

By Robert Half May 19, 2017 at 6:00am

When you're hiring, you can spend a lot of time interviewing job candidates who don't meet your needs before you find one who does. One way to speed up your search is to use the phone screen interview. The answers to key screening questions can allow you to pare down your list and quickly identify the most promising candidates.

What is a phone screen interview? The process is straightforward: Once you've finished reviewing resumes and narrowed the applicant pool for your job opening, schedule each of those candidates for a brief screening interview. This step can save you the time and trouble involved in meeting job candidates in person who, despite strong resumes, don't satisfy all your needs.

The answers to phone interview questions can tell you a lot about whether an applicant is likely to have the right mix of skills and experience for the position and a work style that will suit your office. Plus, a relatively impromptu phone call can give you a better idea of the candidate's interpersonal skills than a formal, rehearsed interview would.

The best phone screen interview questions to ask

Rather than asking open-ended questions on your call, consider the following categories of screening questions to ask each applicant, with some specific examples and recommendations.

1. Basic information

Stick to the basics and verify information with questions such as these:

  • Where are you in your job search, and what do you hope to accomplish?
  • When could you start working?

TIP: Make sure you block noise and distractions from your office during your phone interviews.

2. Salary expectations

This is an important question to ask early in the screening, because it will shed light on the candidate’s expectations and whether he or she is making more than what you expect to offer.

  • What is your salary at your current job?
  • How much would you like to earn in this position?

TIP: If you can’t get a clear idea of whether there’s a financial fit, you can ask about salary later.

3. Desire for the job

Evaluate their work style and interest in this job, along with their motivation for leaving their last one.

  • What reasons do you have for leaving your most recent job?
  • Why attracted you to apply for this position?

TIP: Ask follow-up questions, if you need clarification, but keep in mind this is an introductory interview.

4. Find out what they know about the company

This will give you a clue about whether the candidate took the time to do some company research.

  • What attracted you to our organization?
  • What do you know about our products or services?

TIP: Keep brief notes so you can compare answers with other candidates.

5. Issues with the resume

Be sure to raise any concerns or red flags that came up when you read the candidate's resume.

  • What skills have you learned recently?
  • What did you do during the yearlong gap in your employment?

TIP: Listen for tone and communication skills.

Planning for your phone interview

You may choose to plan for shorter or longer calls, but many employers find that it typically takes 15 to 30 minutes to ask all pertinent phone screening interview questions. Make a list of your questions and be consistent with what you ask each candidate so you make fair comparisons.

Many of the same interview tips for face-to-face meetings can be used for phone screening. But, in general, plan to ask fewer questions and to save more in-depth questions for the in-person interview, when you have more time to spend with the candidate and can use body language to help evaluate the responses.

Here are some bonus questions, in case you’d like more examples:

  • What is a typical day like at your current job?
  • How do you see yourself contributing in this position?
  • What would you hope to get out of this job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What questions do you have for me?

Following up on the phone call

If the candidate's answers to your phone screening interview questions don't satisfy you, you've saved yourself the time involved in interviewing that candidate in person.

If the first impression goes well, however, you can move on to the next stage, where you can ask tougher questions, such as: Tell me about a time you failed at something, or What do you expect from a supervisor?

Using phone screen interview questions to narrow the candidate field can be an important part of an effective candidate evaluation process. With a little planning, you can save yourself a lot of time and be that much closer to a successful hire.

We can help you with your phone screen interviews or find you more candidates to call.


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